£5bn price tag for Thames crossing planned to relieve QEII bridge

One option would pass through undeveloped land that is designated as Green Belt

Options for a new River Thames road crossing include a scheme that would pass through "environmentally sensitive areas" and could cost as much £5 billion, the Government revealed today.

This scheme - one of three options now out for public consultation - could see the building of a new road linking the M25 north of the Thames in Essex with the M2 south of the river in Kent.

The longest of the three options, this Option C route will pass through undeveloped land that is designated as Green Belt.

The consultation document released today went on: "A route at this location would also pass through environmentally sensitive areas, including the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, ancient woodland and the Thames Marshes Ramsar site, where development would need to be proven to be of "overriding public interest" before it could go ahead.

"Overall, Option C would result in the greatest impacts on environmentally sensitive areas of all the options."

The Option C capital cost would be between £3.1 billion and £3.2 billion.

There is also a variant to Option C which would include the widening of the A229 between the M2 and the M20 in Kent, effectively providing a new direct link road from the M25 all the way south to the M20.

The capital cost of this variant would be between £4.9 billion and £5.0 billion.

Announced today by Roads Minister Stephen Hammond, the other two options are:

* Option A - a crossing at the site of the existing A282 Dartford-Thurrock crossing that links the M25 north of the river in Essex with the M25 south of the Thames in Kent.

* Option B - Connecting the A2 Swanscombe Peninsula in Kent with the A1089 in Essex.

Option A's capital cost is between £1.2 billion and £1.8 billion, while Option B's capital cost is between £1.8 billion and £2.2 billion.

The consultation document said that as Option C and the Option C variant costs were so much greater than for the other options, "this may mean that any revenues received from crossing users are not sufficient to meet the total project costs over the projected length of the project concession".

It went on: "Additional financial support may therefore be required from public finances in the event that the Government chooses to develop Option C or the Option C variant."

The document said that each location option was likely to be feasible to deliver, in terms of construction, value for money and financing and that each location option had been shown to reduce congestion at the existing crossing, albeit to varying extents.

Mr Hammond said today: "With traffic levels expected to increase by a fifth over the next 30 years, it is vital we take action now on the future of a new Lower Thames crossing to make sure that our road network is able to meet the future economic needs of the country."

He went on: "There are some tough decisions to be made, but this is the first step in making sure that the residents, businesses and motorists who rely on the crossing receive the service they expect and deserve in the years to come.

"I encourage anyone who uses the existing crossing or has an interest in the location of the new crossing to let us have their views on these proposals. This will enable us to make the right decision on the location of the new crossing."

RAC Foundation director Professor Stephen Glaister said: "This is a critical crossing on one of the busiest routes in the country, if not the continent.

"Yet much of the congestion is of the Government's own making thanks to the archaic toll booths which routinely bring traffic to a standstill. The introduction of the long-discussed free-flow payment system will help, but it is welcome that ministers are looking to the future and recognise that traffic is set to increase significantly."

He went on: "The big question is how the scheme will be funded. As with the existing crossing the suspicion will be that drivers will pay for any extra capacity through charges - charges which will remain in place long after the project is paid for."

Freight Transport Association road network management policy head Malcolm Bingham said: "There is absolutely no doubt that improving capacity and easing congestion at Dartford is essential, but we have to ensure that the best option is selected, providing real relief on this important national artery."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own